Alveolar macrophages are the primary interferon-alpha producer in pulmonary infection with RNA viruses

Immunity. 2007 Aug;27(2):240-52. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2007.07.013.


Type I interferons (IFNs) are critical for antiviral responses. Here we generated a knockin mouse in which green fluorescence protein (GFP) was expressed under the control of the Ifna6 promoter. Virus-induced expression of GFP recapitulated various IFN-alpha subtypes. Systemic infection of the mice with Newcastle disease virus (NDV) increased GFP(+) plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) via the Toll-like receptor system, and GFP(+) conventional dendritic cells (cDCs) and macrophages via the RIG-I-like helicase system. By contrast, lung infection with NDV led to IFN-alpha production in alveolar macrophages (AMs) and cDCs, but not in pDCs. Specific depletion of AMs caused a marked defect in the initial viral elimination in the lung. pDCs produced IFN-alpha in the absence of AM-mediated viral recognition, suggesting that pDCs function when the first defense line is broken. Thus, AMs act as a type I IFN producer that is important for the initial responses to viral infection in the lung.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Interferon Type I / genetics
  • Interferon-alpha / metabolism*
  • Lung / immunology*
  • Lung / virology
  • Lung Diseases / immunology
  • Lung Diseases / virology*
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • RNA Virus Infections / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Ifna6 protein, mouse
  • Interferon Type I
  • Interferon-alpha